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It won't be like this next time

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Loki was fighting. That was happening a lot lately. He usually managed to get himself out of trouble either through his princely status or Thor's more important princely status. He got in trouble because he liked to play pranks on others, but hadn't quite figured out how to not get caught yet. He just did, without thinking ahead. It was arguably because impulsiveness was considered a normal Asgardian trait and Loki, in his own way, was just trying to fit in. He was still young then.
This time he wasn't fighting over a prank, though that's what started it. Loki had the uninspired idea to turn Sigurd's restrained armor and cape into a flamboyant dress - at the back, which meant it took a while for him to realise it. The young noble, son of a war hero and joyless warrior dime-a-dozen, responded to the princeling's prank with self-righteous vitriol.
"I am not a nobody that you can make fun of, my lord!" bellowed he. "You ought to save your jests for servants and cowards, for if you do not change my attire back, I... I..."
"You'll what?" purred Loki, his brows raised and eyes half-lidded, trying very hard not to laugh in the brute's face. Their audience, a small array of courtiers, looked from the one to the other as they sparred with words. "You will fight me?"
"I will!"
"In that?"
The tension was too thick for anyone to laugh, though some maybe wanted to.

Sigurd was still struggling for a reply when help came from the crowd: "Lord Sigurd does not need armor to be a champion of the realm!" someone cheered to sporadic applause. Sigurd grinned gratefully at the support. Although it was plain to everyone that he was the favourite, not many had the courage to express it in front of Loki, with him icily staring them down.
"I think we should put that to the test." said Loki, his back stiff and his posture proud as he extracted his daggers and got ready for the now inevitable battle.

"Come my lord," hissed Sigurd, balancing his axe in his broad hands as they circled around the small garden, "do you feel on fair footing only if your opponent looks like a woman?" Loki smirked as he chewed on a mocking reply. "Like you?" Sigurd added quickly, and Loki's smirk fell to a seething frown. The audience couldn't resist a few chuckles, hidden albeit behind coughs. It was a thing of awkward chagrin for Loki that as he stepped into maturity he still looked considerably young and his face had a smoothness that the Asgardian warrior society didn't know what to make of. For a youth of Loki's age to be beardless was only seen in women (and servants). Although frightfully tall and talented in fighting in spite of what everyone else thought of him, the ability to boast any overt mark of virility was denied him. He fought more often in the defense of his good name and honour than he did for practice, and still won every time. The fact that after years of this there were still jokes made at his expense over his dubious handicap must have been frustrating. He tried never to show it.

They charged at one another, their weapons clinked together, they struggled, they distanced, they paced some more, they charged again.
"If that was meant to make me turn your 'gown' back, your breath was wasted." retorted Loki with a thin smile. "But don't worry. You have my word of honour I won't lift your skirts." Sigurd tightened his hold on his heavy axe. "I wouldn't want to embarrass you after all."
Then they charged again at one another, and again, and again, until they were both quite exhausted. Loki was clearly getting tired of the fight, and Sigurd seemed to have unending stamina though he huffed like a boar. The young prince had never had such a long fight before, and the crowd was beginning to lose its patience, and the few cheers for Sigurd were chipping away at Loki's confidence.

The two were circling one another again and Loki was mulling an alternative to their grinding back and forth. He set his determined eyes into Sigurd's angry ones, and took a breath as they charged towards one another again, getting ready to deflect his axe on his crossed blades again. But instead he side-stepped the warrior who heavily stumbled forward, and Loki took this chance to silently release his breath which called a small chill wind that made Sigurd's skirts lift. He yelped, to the awkward laughter of the crowd, and using his arms to cover his exposed behind he instead left himself exposed to Loki's attack. His right arm half-slashed and bleeding, Sigurd had lost the fight. The crowd was no longer laughing, though someone let slip a clipped laugh of joy, and the young girl bounced as her palms went to cover her mouth.
"You cheated!" Sigurd shouted.
"You should take care to not pass wind during battle." joked Loki.
"You have no honour, my lord!" and to that, Loki for a second mock-charged at the startled warrior.
"I have enough honour to not fight a wounded man." the prince pointed out as he straightened himself.

The crowd wasn't sure how to react. They all knew the prince had used tricks again, and he knew they knew it. There was only one spectator who was truly happy for him, but it didn't sooth him at all and she wasn't even sure he knew she was there.
"You should get yourself to a healer." continued Loki while, with a snap of his fingers, he turned Sigurd's armor back and made to leave. "And be happy that this wasn't a fight to the death." The threat in Loki's last words didn't escape his opponent, who knew of some of the prince's casualties. He also knew that, Loki being who he was, his death wouldn't necessarily come from a battle, which in Asgard was worse than dying itself.

Loki left the small garden and made his way back to the stone corridors of the palace while the crowd dispersed itself, some shaking their heads others not knowing how to react. Nobody and nothing dared follow after Loki except for the light billowing of his cape and a pale echo of tiny feet.
There was a small, curious figure that inched its way to the stone balcony which overlooked the enclosed court, where the spectators had gathered. A head shorter than everyone else, in an elegant gown carried with a gauche gait, and a soft, dark head of brown hair, the girl was obviously of somewhat nobility but little importance - which she recognised in herself and therefore didn't care to adopt the proud way of carrying oneself that was normal in Asgard. A few of the courtiers had recognised her as Avildis and inclined their heads with small, unsure smiles: she was the youngest daughter of the royal couple, which also made her their youngest child (there were only two princes, and four princesses younger than they).
She was the only one who supported Loki that day, mostly because she still missed his younger self who used to play with her so cheerfully, but also because he was her brother and she loved him. Fighting, she didn't care about - though she was happy when he won. She had followed the pair of warriors with worried eyes when they started circling each other, completely ignored the banter before the battle, and gasped as they charged at one another - Sigurd with his axe and Loki with a pair of curved daggers. Her fists were pressed into the stone and she almost leaned over in her focus, as if she could help Loki win by sheer willpower. Her pale grey eyes never left him, and she cheered for him when he won.

Half-running to reach him, the girl lightly lifted her skirts in her excited fists as she called after the looming figure "Congratulations!" Loki half-turned and grumbled something unintelligible, but kept trotting as if he were late somewhere. Avildis could tell his thoughts were pacing as quickly and roughly as he was. "Why aren't you happy? You won." she pouted, hoping against hope that he could maybe be as happy as she was for him.
"Tell them that." he mumbled with a toss of his head.
"Well what was wrong?" Avildis asked as she finally fell into step beside her brother.
"Are you as short sighted as you are short?" he sneered.
"Well... that wasn't you, was it?" the hurt little girl asked, referring to the decisive wind. Loki's only response was a chuckle and a shake of his head. "Well, so what if it was?" Avildis went on. "In any battle, you'd still win and it counts. Winning is what counts."
"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?" She wasn't sure how to answer, so he went on. "When's the last time you won anything?"
"When's the last time you did?!" she cried out, incensed with hurt. "You're such a heartless monster, I swear, Loki." and she immediately broke from his side and started charging, with all the force of young rage, down a side corridor that would eventually take her to her room. Avildis grasped her gown even harder as she ran with the hope that she could reach it before she started crying.

Loki's steps carried him on and eventually faltered and stopped, and with a sigh he turned around and almost reluctantly, but certainly regretfully, went after his sister. His long paces made him reach her door not long after she barricaded herself behind it, and although he could've gone in he decided not to. All was quiet inside, but he knew what that said about her.

"Come on, sis, I didn't mean it." More silence. She was lying with her head pressed into the bed, crying as quietly as she could manage.

Somewhere along the way, Loki's friendship with the youngest and most unimportant Odinspawn withered to something unspectacular. When she was still walking rather precariously Loki was already learning how to fight and spent most of his time with Thor, but he still enjoyed the attention and affection the family shared. Avildis was an ever-laughing ray of morning light, and her hair was as light as Thor's, before it got darker as she grew up; she ended up resembling her mother more than her father.
Her hair colour was actually one of the first things Loki had tried his magic on, years before he changed Sif's hair from blonde to black. Avildis trusted him implicitly however, and anyway as far as they could tell Loki's magic had had no lasting effect on her.
In-between sparring with Thor and learning all the things Thor should have, he had time for his youngest sister. The older ones somehow intimidated him, or kept their distance from the boys. In a few years they were already too concerned with feminine frivolities to bother with the brothers. Avildis was safe from this though. Aside from being the youngest, she was also the most uncouth of the sisters, and thoughts about her being paired with a young lord when she came of age were scarce, and soon forgotten. She was charming, as Loki well knew, but her charm didn't outweigh her insignificance.

"If you'll let me in, I could explain myself to you. Please?" he bargained with the door. "I forgive you, you know." At this, the girl was almost ready to throw a pillow at the offending sound, and her brother grinned because he knew it. 'Forgive her', as if she had done something wrong - she knew she hadn't, and Loki tried very hard to suppress the thought that he knew she hadn't too.

The young prince wasn't sure when he stopped spending time with her, but in her doe eyes he could tell she knew exactly when but never said. It probably happened when he grew up and she was still so little, and he had other things to worry about. The whole family had drifted apart as they grew older, slowly, like stars in a black universe. Their mother was the only connecting thread, so lone and vital that without her they probably would gone years without so much as seeing each other in the Asgardian city-palace. Loki stayed by Thor's side, and Thor stayed by Odin's, and the three older sisters stuck together like a trio of graces, and Avildis did who knows what. Loki maybe thought, underneath his surface thoughts, that staying so close to Thor might make Odin notice him again and say again how he, too, deserved to be a king. But as the brothers reached maturity there was far less of that, and Loki was left with defending his place in Thor's proud company of warriors, and fighting whoever teased him for his light figure, his use of magic, or his other un-manly characteristics. His first years of maturity were all a struggle in both the royal court and its satellites of warriors and nobles. In the end he would win the respect of his peers, and if not that then at least their fear (he wasn't yet sure what the difference was), and he was close to achieving that now. Loki also knew that this made him feel older and more thick-skinned than Thor by a large distance, as the favourite had never had to struggle for anything, but it was a bitter comfort.

In this way, he felt the aching pull of sympathy for his young sister. She too had to struggle at court, because she too was nobody's favourite; she had, maybe, at one time been his, but now she no longer even had that. And maybe she resented him for it, but if she did, it never showed. Whenever he saw her - few times lately - she always had the most open and shining eyes, filled with admiration for her older brother. Loki knew she preferred him to Thor not only because they had been closer as children, but also because she, like Loki and practically nobody else in Asgard, preferred thinking to fighting. With an unremarkable body and scrawny limbs, nothing spectacular about her appearance except for the quality of her cloth - almost always red and always shapeless on her - and a head of confused hair no maid bothered for too long with, she was too old to play with other girls but too young to be courted. Not that anyone wanted to, because she was at such a distance form the throne she might as well have been a mantelpiece. She was called to attend royal family gatherings sometimes, but her presence was only a formality and her words, presuming she ever had anything to say, wouldn't have any weight anyway. Odin loved her, as he did all his children, but it was a love so much thinned due to over-use and its wide distribution that she didn't think it there anymore. She felt as unloved as Loki did, and for this he was almost grateful to her.

"Why did you have to come see that, anyway?" the prince went on with his pleading, this time mostly to himself as he stared at his boots. "Do you have so little to do?" he asked, gently. "Would you like me to..." and he stopped with a cough as a servant scurried past, her head bowed, and he stood a bit away from the door as if he were waiting for Avildis to come out. When the echoing steps were far away, he continued: "would you like us to spend more time together? Sis?" Nothing. "I've missed you, you know, I've missed you too." Loki grinned, "I know you have. Your face is always such an open book." Then, with a pleading voice, "You have missed me, haven't you?" Still nothing.
"Come now, sis, this is getting silly. Just open the damn door." He leveled his hand against it, readying to push it open but losing his nerve at the last minute. He settled instead for a gentle, timid scratch. "You've decided to be mad at me, then?"